Second-Generation South Asian Indian American Identity

Something I constantly think about is how to pass down our traditions and culture to our children. I want my kids to know who they are and where they come from but it’s an interesting dilemma considering that my generation was raised differently than past generations. We were some of the first Asian Indian Americans growing up in the United States.

Being in America changed the way we would have traditionally grown up. I know a lot of people who grew up as close to the Indian culture as possible but even then, there were plenty of other influences affecting their childhood.

For me, growing up as a first-generation Asian Indian American in the United States allowed me and my siblings to define our own path. We chose whether or not to follow Hinduism. We chose which aspects of it we liked and didn’t like. Maybe it would have been the same in India. My mother’s side is pretty much a straight line of atheists. My dad’s side is religious but my dad never pressed us into following anything. He left everything open for our interpretations and let us make our own decisions on what we wanted to do.

Religion aside, being here in this “melting pot” gave us exposure to so many other cultures and religions. My family celebrates Holi which is traditionally a Hindu festival, Navratri which is traditionally a Gujarati festival, and spend Diwali at the Gurudwara since half of my family is Sikh although Diwali is also celebrated by Hindus and Jains. I am pretty sure that none of these are exclusive to their religions of origin. I know that garba during Navratri is well attended by people of all nationalities and religions.

Where does religion end and culture start? We are lucky to be in this area where everything isn’t so heavily based on religion but on our culture. I’ve never been really religious and if all of my family’s traditions were based on religion, I don’t know if I would feel as comfortable passing it down to my children. But since they have become much more based on Indian culture, we introduce our children to everything we possibly can so they are aware of our Indian traditions.

I feel lucky that Indian culture and religion can be separated as easily as it has. If our entire culture was rooted in religion, it would have been that much harder for me to accept this new identity that I have formed. It’s different now for my kids because they are learning second hand about our traditions. Whatever we have cultivated is what is being handed down. I have to accept they might never know our languages as well or the cultural norms that we grew up with.

How much can we expect our children to absorb? Is it possible that they will be as involved in the Indian culture as much as we were growing up. It honestly didn’t occur to me until my 30s that what we were doing was unprecedented. That means what our children are doing is unprecedented as well. I would like my children to take pride in the cultural traditions that we are able to pass down.

It will be interesting to see what our kids accept as and what they separate out from their cultural identity.

 

Real World Stuff

I had to stop going on Twitter and reading the news. Even then, yesterday, I saw a random headline pop out at me on my phone and it completely stressed me out.

What is the world coming to? The funny thing is that I’m completely aware that all of these problems existed before but a combination of I was too young to understand and no internet helped me to live in my bubble.

Now, the bubble has popped. No matter where we are, we are bombarded with information. And honestly, something bad is always happening. It doesn’t help that we are in a time when we have a leader that doesn’t know how to lead.

How does this affect us in our daily lives? For me, it sometimes makes me feel stagnant. I move because I have to but I’d like to crawl up in a ball and just hide until things get better. I have to also keep hope that they will get better but right now, that is definitely hard to see. So I freeze. I don’t know how to feel okay with the way the world is right now but I don’t know how to change it.

Social media also doesn’t help. It seems as though there are people who are still living in their bubble. I know it’s probably not true and they are probably just as worried about the state of things as I am but I wish I could at least feel that carefree sometimes.

I think having kids affects how I feel a lot. I worry about the future of the planet and the future of this county and how they will do within it. There are some days I wish they were still babies so I could keep them home and keep them safe.

Will it be possible to feel okay again? Is this temporary or is this the way we will be living now? Will these worries ever go away? Can we please get some good news for once?

My Child’s Big Transitions Hit Me Just As Hard

I always imagined myself to be tough. I have dealt with a lot of changes in stride, no matter what the challenge was. I’ve been through depression and loss and moves and employment changes. I’ve fallen and gotten up and fallen and gotten up.

I thought I had finally gotten to a point where a lot of every day stress was behind me since I am a stay-at-home mom now. I’m not technically working so the regular employment stresses are gone. I have a loving relationship and pretty good kids. I have a great family who is always there when I need them.

I thought that a lot of the issues I’d have now would be things like potty training and breaking up fights. I thought I’d be struggling with finding myself again and readjusting to a new normal.

So all of this turned out to be true. The biggest thing that hit me though in the last few weeks is that when my kids go through a big transition, I go through it too.

My children are both entering a new phase in their lives. It’ll be a little scary for them and completely new. I thought that I’d be the rock and help them get through it. I’d planned for it so we wouldn’t be overwhelmed with a lot at once and even spread a few activities out so the kids had time to adjust.

Then the nightmares started. The constant anxiety started. I have been feeling like I’ve been standing on the edge of a breakdown for weeks. The problem was that I couldn’t put my finger on why. There isn’t anything happening that we haven’t been preparing for. There isn’t anything happening that I have not researched and asked fellow parents and other teachers about. I’ve been getting the kids prepared as well so hopefully, there will be less tears all around.

I guess I needed the support too. I didn’t know that. No one talks about how it affects you as a parent when your kids have a big change. No one talks about how debilitating it is when the anxiety hits you. It’s already so much that you’re trying to protect your kids 24 hours a day with the most basic things like stairs and table corners and tree branches and dogs. Now, the worries start on how you will protect them when they aren’t with you.

I thought I had it but I don’t think I do. I think I feel a total loss of control to the point where I’ve imagined telling my husband that I’ll homeschool my kids even though I know that that isn’t a real possibility for me because it’s not the best option for any of us. I’ve always been a control freak so this is really much harder for me than I thought it would be. But I didn’t realize it until today.

It’s crazy how much affects you when it comes to your kids. There is a lot I can handle but anything regarding these children is amplified. I want to make sure that they are safe no matter what.

I think the biggest thing I’m learning from this (besides that I will figure out how to deal with all of it) is that I’m not alone in feeling this. And that validation helps tremendously.

The Exhausting Reality of Children

I woke up this morning like I wake up every morning: ready to go, planning the things we would do through the day, excited to try to make my (and our) day a good one.

Then it happened.

“Mooooom, carry me!!!”

“Moooom, she’s playing with my car!”

Mooooom, I need you!”

This all took place within the first 15 minutes of coming downstairs. The conflicting yells for me and for me to give the kids breakfast always hit me hard because it’s not humanly possible to make breakfast in the kitchen if I’m sitting next to the kids at the dining table!!”

But make them understand that. Make them understand that I only have 2 arms and hands and not 8. I do frequently joke to my older child that I could do everything she asks for in the minute she asks if I was an octopus.

This means though that this great, exciting, fun-filled day we were going to have is over as my mood goes south by the end of breakfast time. Then, I’m playing catch up all day to feel like I actually have control of something, anything.

I know these are 2 little humans with their set of needs and wants and incapable of completely regulating their emotional well-being. I know they depend on me for a lot of things (although I do try to make them as independent for certain tasks as quickly as I can). But all of this knowledge disappears when I end up arguing with them over which shirt they want to wear or which plate they get to use.

Oh my gosh, it is exhausting. It’s mentally draining. It’s emotionally draining. And even though I have now been a parent for over 5 years, I have no idea on how to thrive. I’m surviving sure. I will never be a Pinterest mom and I have long accepted that. But I’d like to be better. I’d like to at least be a Berenstein Bear Mom.

I’m not, though. Unfortunately, I get rude and sarcastic and mean. My goodwill melts away into impatience. My requests become orders. Honestly, I’m just trying to get through the day.

Is it possible? Is it possible to not be so exhausted by these little humans?

Or is it just reality?

Say Yes

I have trouble saying yes to things. Last week, my husband suggested that I go get a massage while our kids were napping. My neck and shoulder had been hurting and I could feel knots everywhere. I couldn’t resolve the pain even with the help of medicine and rest. I was causing more pain in my hands by trying to massage out the knots myself. The next logical step was, of course, for me to get a professional to try to help get the knots out.

My first reaction was to say no. My first reaction to every suggestion is instinctively to say no.

Why is this? Why do I feel like I can’t say yes to anything? I don’t know if this is a part of my personality or if it’s something I’ve picked up as a mom. I wonder if a part of me thinks I don’t deserve what I’m being offered. I feel like I have to sacrifice what I want or something good for me in order for me to be a good person.

Is this something that we, as women, do? Do we turn down things automatically before we even think about whether we would want to do them or not? Why is that? Do we feel like we aren’t deserving of every opportunity that comes our way?

I also wonder if it could be the fear of something different or new. Does the idea of stepping outside our daily scheduled box make us feel uncomfortable? Am I going to start questioning myself when something that scares me meets with head on with an opportunity? What would convince to say yes?

A little while ago, I read Shonda Rhimes’s book “Year of Yes”. She found herself receiving all sorts of opportunities because she didn’t turn down the requests she usually did. She is one of the most successful women in the entertainment industry and still, she automatically said no to things that forced her outside of her comfort zone. It changed some aspects of her life.

I know that getting a massage isn’t exactly facing a big fear for me but leaving my kids seems to be. I overthink every time I make plans away from them. I don’t exactly why this is but I’m glad that I can at least acknowledge it and hopefully, I can say yes to a few more opportunities that come my way. I want to be able to face my fears and see what saying the word “yes” will do for me.

EMPATH

Who knows what an empath is?

According to Merriam-Webster, an empath is one who experiences the emotions of others.

It took me a long time to figure out I am an empath. Well, I believe I am. I don’t actually have an official way of knowing.

According to this article from psychology.com, here are the 10 ways to know you are an empath:

  1. Highly sensitive (in my case, oversensitive)
  2. Absorbs other people’s emotions
  3. Tend to be introverted, can be overwhelmed in large gatherings
  4. Highly intuitive
  5. Need alone time
  6. Can be overwhelmed in intimate relationships
  7. Targets for energy vampires
  8. Replenished in nature
  9. Highly tuned senses
  10. Huge hearts but sometimes give too much

It took me a long time to figure out that a lot of the times I was overwhelmed by my feelings, it was because I was absorbing other people’s feelings. It devours you and makes you want to hide and not deal with anything. I’m sure there also people out there that would be surprised that I need time alone. I can specifically remember one night I had gone to Knott’s Scary Farm with my friends when I was 16. At the beginning of the night, I was super social. By the end, I just wanted to be in my bed by myself. There are many more examples that helped me realize that I fit the description of an empath. I wish I had known when I was younger so I could have figured out how to deal with it better. I don’t think I fully realized it until I was almost 30.

It did make having a relationship difficult. How do you explain to someone how you feel when you don’t even completely understand what is happening? The accusation of being oversensitive was thrown at me a lot. And I thought I was. I thought it was my fault that I felt the way I felt. I finally realized that my feelings don’t need to be invalidated. This was something that was a part of me. I had to learn to own it.

That’s exactly what I ended up doing. I learned not to stop my tears or if I was feeling upset. It didn’t get rid of the feelings. It just bottled them up until I exploded. Now, I try to understand them and I talk about them. It helps to move forward faster.

Now, let’s talk about being an empath and a mother. That means that you rarely get alone time, there are feelings all over the place, and picking up other emotions is a daily occurrence. The positive side is I also know when my kids are really feeling things and I need to address them without assuming it will heal. The only way I do know how to deal with it is to shut myself down (which I admit might not be the best way). I have to compartmentalize a lot. I don’t know if this makes me a better or worse mother because I have to separate myself from whatever my kids are feeling or doing.

Something I hadn’t thought about until recently is that my children might be empaths as well. The older one already shows signs of empathy at an extremely young age. How do I teach her to deal with this? How do I teach her how to handle it when I’m not even sure how to deal with it myself? What is the healthiest way for her to handle it?

Do I have any empaths out there who can offer some advice?

Controlling Your Thoughts

Have you ever had one bad thing happen to you and it made you focus on everything that has gone wrong in your life lately? How about thinking about one thing that scares you and it makes you go into an out of control negative thought spiral?

There are days that I will wake up fine and have a hard time dealing with my kids and then it just seems like nothing goes right. I start thinking of all the things I’m unhappy about and it grows and grows until I’m completely resentful. I think about all the things that used to make me feel good in the past and dwell on that instead of my present.

The crazy thing is that if I just change my point of view to focus on the good instead of the bad or found a better way to deal with the harder things that happened, I wouldn’t go into this downward spiral. That’s not to say that I’m not correct in what I’m feeling. It’s just that there are good, positive things that do happen. I just focus too much on the negative.

It’s hard to control our thoughts. It’s easier to follow our instincts. It’s an uphill battle to continuously think positively. It’s work to recognize the good things, especially because they may be little things. I can easily name 5 things that I don’t like about my life but constantly struggle to name 5 things I love about it.

If I continue to follow this pattern though, it will be hard for me to find happiness. I’ll stay in a constant state of anxiety and disappointment. I will miss the great things that are happening in front of me.

I also do believe that appreciating the good surrounds you with positive energy and it attracts more good stuff. So as much daily work as it is, it is definitely worth trying to stay positive. Recognize and understand anything bad that happens and feel it but don’t dwell on it. Shifting your thinking is a daily mind exercise.

So work on not sending yourself into a downward spiral. Find the good.